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Home storage to bolster hard-drive growth

The days of the 2-terabyte machines could happen as early as 2009, research firm IDC predicts.

Storing all of those digital photos and on-demand TV shows on your computer should keep sales brisk for hard-drive manufactures for at least the next four years, a new study has shown.

Research firm IDC's "Worldwide Hard Disk Drive 2005-2009 Forecast," released Wednesday, shows that the number of drives shipped worldwide and the resulting profits should increase at a compound annual growth rate of 15.5 percent and 10.1 percent respectively from 2004 to 2009.

Consumer devices with disk drives smaller than 2.5-inches, such as MP3 players, handheld global positioning systems, computers in automobiles and portable media players, are expected to be the fastest-growing category, with a worldwide shipment increase of 37.4 percent during that period.

But when it comes to storage capacity for PCs and media players, bigger is better with consumers, said David Reinsel, director for Storage Research at IDC.

"What is it that will fill up their drives? You figure a couple of gigabytes for music and a couple more for photos," Reinsel said, noting that more PCs are shipping with 80GB hard drives instead of the 40GB machines that came out a few years ago.

Reinsel also said that hard disk drives could reach 1 terabyte in capacity sometime in 2007 to 2008, thanks in part to the industry's transition to perpendicular magnetic recording, or PMR. Instead of lying flat, the disc is magnetized so that the bits stand on end. The result is a disc drive that could hold almost double the amount of data of current designs. Seagate, Western Digital, Maxtor, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Toshiba and Samsung have all subscribed to the new PMR design.

"We could get to 2 terabytes by 2009, but it is more likely that it will be a stronger adoption of 1-terabyte machines for things like a TiVo or digital video players," Reinsel said. "Customers want their media whenever they want it. It's not that they have a fear of losing it that is holding people back from adopting 2 terabytes, but fear of not having enough space to record their favorite episode."

Reinsel said 3.5-inch drives found in desktop and laptop PCs will continue to make up the lion's share of the 630 million hard disk drives IDC is forecasting will ship over the next year. The next largest category is 2.5-inch drives, which the analyst predicts will end up in different designs such as placing a motherboard behind the display screen or sub-towers like the Mac Mini.